Last night's Mutant Future session probably spelled the end of the road for the trusty Swamp Orca, the refurbished military hovercraft that has been propelling the party around so faithfully for over a dozen sessions now. After fleeing the scene of their latest escapades (and managing to avoid being hit by the boulders hurled after them by the angry treants and their Coy-Pu masters), the party sent Beyonce's remote controlled dragonfly spybot up to make sure the way ahead was clear. With three paralyzed party members, their immediate goal was to return to the Badder warrens in the hope that Dae-Brak the shaman could work some of his herbal magic and return their comrades to the ranks of the responsive.
Beyonce, looking at the feed coming in from the dragonfly, saw five men riding mechanical gliders, circling in a formation to the west, heading in the direction the party had just come from. Luckily the hovercraft was behind a small hill, known as Hendricks Park in the ancient times, and the gliders did not appear to have noticed them. Zooming in, Beyonce identified the men as Knights of Genetic Purity by the red square and unbalanced scales of justice that were emblazoned on their armor. The party pulled the hovercraft up in the shelter of some trees on top of the hill and Irons used his telepathic ability to create a camoflage pattern on the glarg-ore armor covering the hovercraft. Carefully maneuvering the dragonfly closer, they saw that the gliders were flying in a circle over a large, armored wheeled vehicle flanked by a squadron of men in wetsuits (promptly dubbed frog soldiers by the party). Attached by a chain to the vehicle, and leading the whole procession, was an obviously mutated naked human with a huge head. This mutant was covered with scars and fresh whip marks, and he was casting back and forth as if scenting something.
The party assumed that the mutant was somehow following the scent trail they had left earlier in the morning when they travelled from the Badder warrens to the ruins of Riverbend, and realized it was only a matter of time till the knights found their current trail as well. After much debate about the proper course of action, the party came up with a devious plan that would make insurgents everywhere proud. They constructed an IED (improvised explosive device, for anyone who has had their head in the sand for the last few years) out of a pipe, some scrap metal and a pound of their precious C4 plastic explosive. They proceeded down the hill to a stretch of the old road that runs along a sheer basalt outcropping, with a cliff to the side. Reasoning that their pursuers would have to pass along this road, which was wide enough for the vehicle but not much more, they buried the IED in the middle of the road and set off down the road into the swamp. The party split up, with the hovercraft heading toward the Badder warrens (the dragonfly had also observed ominous clouds of smoke rising up from that general vicinity) while Bozko and Jonathan the Mutant Mouse in the Lancelot Mech set off to lead a scent trail into the heart of War Chimp territory. Bozko spilled odiferous pollen behind him as he went, hoping to lure the knights (if they made it past the IED) into the teeth of the vicious War Chimps.
They did not have to wait long to set off the explosive - the mutant sniffer caught their newer scent as the knights passed about a mile away from the path the party had taken from Riverbend to Hendricks Hill, and he angled over and started following the new path straight up the hill. Sure enough, they passed directly over the IED and the party, watching intently on the laptop that was displaying the feed from Beyonce's dragonfly, waited until the mutant sniffer was a full chain's length past the IED and the front wheels of the armored vehicle were just about to roll over it before they detonated the C4. Beyonce and Irons had really done an excellent job of constructing the IED, and it amplified the force of the C4 and sent an armor piercing charge up through the front of the vehicle, severing the right axle and surely deafening and stunning if not killing its occupants outright. Four of the frog soldiers died on the spot, flung like ragdolls over the cliff, and the vehicle settled nose first into a small crater that now smouldered in the road bed. The chain holding the mutant sniffer had been severed in the explosion and the poor creature had been hurled forward. Shaking the cobwebs clear, he turned and ran straight down the nearly vertical cliff surface and hurled himself into the swamp and freedom.
Meanwhile, the hovercraft arrived at the entrance to the warrens and they witnessed a scene of devastation. Despite the rainy and generally wet conditions prevailing in the Willing Mate valley in early fall, the hillside had been burned to scorched earth. Beyonce, with her military experience from her previous life with the human resistance all those centuries earlier before her extended stretch of cryostasis, recognized the effects of napalm. A large crater marred the side of the hill, where the four entrance tunnels that the party knew about would have been. One of the tunnels was still uncollapsed, and a spiderbot was sent inside to investigate. There was evidence of an intense firefight, spent shell casings and the bodies of a few of the knights. Further under the hill when the tunnel opened into the first large chamber, a shallow grave had been dug and filled with perhaps two or three dozen corpses of Badder warriors, carefully laid to rest. The party surmised that these were members of the Badder rearguard, and had fought the Knights off while the rest of the Badders escaped deeper into the labyrinth of winding tunnels that honeycomb the south hills. Also around this time, the paralyzed party members regained control of their bodies. Natas' face was horribly disfigured, but he was a goatman satan-look-a-like to begin with, so having his face melted away by acid really just added to the whole look he had going on! I rolled to see if he had lost vision in either eye, and he got lucky and remained fully sighted!
The spiderbot's thermal sensors detected a watching Badder, concealed under a thin layer of dirt. When the party communicated with the warrior he was none to happy with them, as the knights had made it clear they were looking for the party when they invaded the Badder warren. This was actually the second time that the party had indirectly caused a catostraphe for the Badders, and the warrior politely asked the party to stay away from the Badders for the time being until things cooled down. The party did manage to patch up some of the hard feelings and left a spiderbot with the warrior to bring to the war chiefs so that they could be in communication should the party learn more about the knights next move.
Bozko and Jonathan had made it into War Chimp territory in the swamp, but found it eerily quite. The corpses hanging on the ring of cut trees that marked their territory looked like they had not been replenished for at least a week, as they were mostly picked clean. No sentries fired from the blinds watching the outer perimeter, and indeed, as they forged deeper they found no sign of life at all until they came to the military complex itself in the center of the territory. There, they saw several small smoke trails that looked they might come from a cooking fire rising up from the broken windows of two smaller warehouses that border the complex.
Monkey Boy had flown away from the hovercraft as it approached the Badder warrens and, travelling at 1/8th his already small size, approached the contingent of Knights on the hill that were hauling the wounded out of the armored vehicle and digging emergency fortifications in preperation of further attacks. He attempted to fly inside the mask of one of the glider pilots circling over head, but was smacked aside with a tremendous blow of the pilots gloved hand. He realized that the glider pilots wore a light powered armor, seemingly less powerful than the Iron Man suits, but still plenty strong enough to nearly kill him with one blow (I rolled a critical hit, one of many that I rolled that session - the dice gods seem to smile upon me when I put on my DM hat). Undaunted, and hoping that he had been mistaken for one of the many annoying insects that buzz around the swamp, he descended on a different pilot and this time managed to crawl inside his helmet before he could be knocked away. He took possession of the pilots body, just as one of the iron men emerged from the armored vehicle and, joined by three of the glider pilots, jetted off across the swamp in the direction of the Badders and the hovercraft.
Monkey Boy made to follow them but a voice cracled in over the com link in his helmet,
"Hold your position! You have your orders, soldier, follow them!"
He resumed flying in circles over the knights with one other pilot while the other three and the iron man rapidly closed in on his comrades. The dragonfly was still perched in the trees overlooking the scene and the party members back in the hovercraft guessed that they must have been observed showing up at the Badder warrens. Their suspicions were confirmed when two knights emerged from their concealed positions behind a boulder higher up the hill and began lobbing grenades and gas bombs at the hovercraft! I rolled a critical with the first grenade and the hovercraft took some serious damage, rendering it almost undrivable as a huge section of the skirt was ripped and one of the fans was damaged. As a thick, noxious looking gas emerged from the canisters, Beyonce accelerated the hovercraft and drove it straight at the knights, somehow managing to avoid crashing the vehicle despite its severely damaged condition (it was already pretty beat up going in to this encounter) and sending the knights scattering. She spun the hovercraft around and parked it in the shadow of one of the few remaining trees on the hill, a massive cedar that had survived the raging inferno. Natas, Bark and Kunta Kinte manned the hovercrafts guns while Beyonce and Irons ran to the back of the hovercraft with their laser sniper rifles and threw open the back hatch and prepared to fire on the incoming gliders.
Bozko and Jonathan had beat a hasty retreat back to the hovercraft when they heard what was going on, and Bozko (in his iron man suit) engaged the other iron man in mid air while Jonathan hurried on to the hovercraft. Back at the hillside where the other knights remained, Monkey Boy flew above the other glider pilot and dropped a grenade on top of him (he had discovered that the gliders contained frag grenades, tear gas grenades and mustard gas canisters) and then dropped a mustard gas cannister onto the knights on the ground. He scored a solid hit on the other pilot, forcing a crash landing, but the mustard gas cannister rolled harmlessly off the cliff. He then veered off in an attempt to join the fight going on over by the warrens, but the body he was commandeering was torn to shreds by machine gun fire from the knights on the ground. He managed to survive (still around 2" tall and tucked inside the helmet of his erstwhile possessee) the fall to the ground and, after realizing that he was shielded from the view of the knights on the cliff above him by a copse of trees, he returned to his normal size, looted the grenades and flew off.
The melee was raging in the skys and on the ground back at the Badder warrens, with Bozko getting the worst of his conflict with the knight in the other iron man suit (I of course rolled another critical hit on the knights first missile volley!) and the hovercraft taking several direct hits from grenades dropped by the gliders. The knights on the ground had been dispatched by the gunners in the hovercraft, but not before one had gotten perilously close to attaching what looked to be a large chunk of plastic explosives on the hovercraft - he died only feet away, and the presence of the explosives that close was quite unnerving, but more mustard gas had been dropped from above and no one felt like opening up the hovercraft's hatches to deal with the explosives.
Eventually, after Jonathan and the Lancelot Mech had destroyed one of the gliders and the sharp shooting Beyonce and Irons had nearly killed another (before shutting the hatch due to encroaching mustard gas), the tide of battle turned against the surviving knights and they fled, two gliders and an iron man flying across the swamp back toward the hill.
When the gas had been dispersed by the wind that carried in a thick bank of fog that Natas had summoned, the party collected their breath and we ended the session. I did not reveal to them at the time (because they had not yet looked), but the hovercraft is totally undriveable. Not only is the skirt that contains the cushion of air almost totally blasted away, but both fans and some major engine components are damaged beyond repair. Short of replacing these parts, the Swamp Orca will ride no more.